Five women accused Louis C.K. of sexual misconduct and masturbating in front of them in a New York Times expose on Thursday, and by Friday, the comedian released a lengthy statement in response to the allegations. Although he confirms that the accusations are true and that he’s hurt many people, the statement does not come off as an apology.
In the statement, C.K. treats the women as if they’re strangers he only read about: “five women named Abby, Rebecca, Dana, Julia who felt able to name themselves and one who did not.” He doesn’t address them, he addresses the story. Also, who’s the one person he mentions in trying to seek forgiveness? Himself. “There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for…” he says, turning it back to himself. Furthermore, C.K. never even uses the word “sorry” or “apologize,” but instead goes on at length about how they admired him or how he’s the object of admiration. In fact, the word “admire” in its various forms appears five times.
While it’s true that power dynamics are at play in predatory behavior, boiling it down to mere “admiration” is reductive and insulting. It also puts the focus on how they saw him, not on how he viewed them. If he were being truly honest, he’d say that he didn’t admire them, didn’t respect them at all because his behavior certainly does not jibe with respecting others. Again, the women here are not yet given equal footing in this. They are merely the ones through which he is reflecting on himself.
Even more curiously, he uses the word “dick” twice, which is not only unnecessary and crass, but gives the distinct feeling that he’s reveling in using the word.
“At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true,” he writes. “But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them.”
While the use of the word “dick” and what he did with it may have worked in his stand-up or other comedic works, it has no place here. It’s almost as if he cannot help himself from reliving that exposure, that exhibitionist thrill. In short, the statement reads like the very masturbatory practice that he’s accused of forcing on his victims, except this time, his audience is everyone on the internet.
Parts of C.K.’s statement sounds genuinely remorseful, if only because someone has explained that he’s hurt people, and conceptually he knows that’s bad. But the strange, self-indulgent mix of reliving his sexual misconduct, listing all of the shows he’s working on (even to acknowledge those who are affected by him), and the navel-gazing just comes off as “Louie” the show in miniature and distilled in print.
Perhaps his most self-aware comment is near the end, when he says, “I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want.” It appears that he still has with this statement.
This is actually the crux of the issue that C.K. and other privileged men before him have faced when issuing statements. Kevin Spacey attempted to deflect from the allegations about sexually pressuring a minor by officially coming out as gay in his so-called apology statement, despite the damage that conflating pedophilia with being gay does to the LGBTQ community. Harvey Weinstein’s statement misquotes Jay-Z for no conceivable reason and then goes off on a tangent about the NRA, President Trump, a joke about a Bar Mitzvah, and more.
These men are so used to doing, thinking, and saying anything they want — and the teams around them have continued to let them — that they only live in the reality they’ve built for themselves where everything they do is gold. Getting caught isn’t a wake-up call; it’s speed bump with a spotlight. It’s still about them, and if there were any doubt that these men have victimized others, then these statements make it clear that they’re still unable to see others as equals.
For the men in power who’ve gotten their own way far too long, here’s a tip: Don’t write your own apology statements because you probably don’t know what an apology is if you’re a predator.
Read C.K.’s full statement here.